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Kathy Marshack News

How to Ease Your Child’s Back-to-School Anxiety

Monday, August 13, 2012


With school beginning soon, parents can assist their children to get off to a good start. This not only alleviates some of their anxiety, it can also help your child build confidence and performance academically and socially.

Be Positive
It is only natural for your child to feel apprehensive about the new school year. You can help ease their worries by speaking positively about what they are going to experience this year. Get them excited about that they are going to learn. Talk about the thing they enjoyed from previous years.

Ensure Your Child Is Healthy
Summer is a good time to schedule checkups with your pediatrician, dentist, and eye doctor. Make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations and that you have the required documentation from your doctor. Your visit with you pediatrician is a good time to discuss any concerns you have over your child’s emotional or psychological development. This will help you identify any potential issues before school starts.

Get Everything Ready
Include your child when you are getting prepared for the school year. Take them with you when you do their school shopping and let them pick out things that they like. Help them put together their backpacks, discuss lunch and snack options, and help them lay out their clothes for school the night before. Make the preparation a joint effort.

Get into a Routine
Even though school hasn't started yet, it’s a good idea to start getting into a good routine that will ease them into their school schedule. Set a wake up time and bedtime for your child. This may need to be done gradually for them to adjust. Also start with a few academic games/projects to refresh their memories and get them to prepared for what to expect when school starts.

Visit School with Your Child
If this is the first year at a new school, a visit before the school year begins with your child will help them get comfortable with unfamiliar surroundings. Help them locate their classroom, restroom, lunchroom, and let them check out the playground! Oftentimes teachers are on-site a week ahead getting classrooms ready. You may want to call ahead and see if your child’s teacher will be available to introduce themselves to your child.

Communicate Regarding Special Needs
For parents who have children with special needs, such ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), it’s a good idea to put together a packet about your child for the teacher. Take a look at the article How to Assemble a Teacher Information Packet for some helpful tips.

These tips should not only make for a smooth transition from a summer schedule to the classroom, but may also make a difference in stress levels at home. Click here for more parenting advice.

Is There Too Much Stress on Our Children?

Thursday, July 12, 2012


It's easy to remember all the fun and joyous times we experienced as children. Some of us still long for those carefree days when we had no worries or fears. As perfect as it may have seemed, this memory is not realistic. Children are experiencing high levels of stress. It may look carefree, but inside many children have much on their minds.

School is one of the main concerns for young people. Juggling getting good grades, extracurricular activities, and sports can be a lot of handle. Another concern that tops the list is money. Children are not blind to the fact that there are financial problems in the family. Whatever stress the parent may be feeling, the children will feel it as well.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to children. Each child is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. Some can handle more than others. In order for a child's stress level to be healthy relies much on the parents. Parents must be in tune with how their child is dealing with the challenges in their life. Taking time to talk openly without criticism will allow a child to open up about what they are going through. They must feel that what they share will be respected and safe. I urge all of you parents to stay alert to signs that your child is under stress.

Even if you are the best parent in the world, there are times when you child may need professional help to deal with their stress. This is no slight on you. Being a good parents requires taking the necessary action for the ultimate welfare of your child. Contact a mental health care professional or speak to your family doctor about these issues.

For more information, visit Am I a Good Parent and Managing Stress.

Genetics and Environment Play a Part in Adoptive Child's Future

Monday, April 30, 2012


As a parent of adopted children, I am keenly interested in all issues facing adopted children and their parents. One issue that has recently surfaced is about the risk of drug abuse for adopted children. The Archives of General Psychiatry published a Swedish study about how genetics and environment are risk factors when it comes to addiction and adopted kids.

The study showed that adopted children are twice as likely to abuse drugs if they had a biological parent who also abused drugs. This is due to a genetic predisposition. However, environment can also play a part. If the environment that an adoptive child is raised in is a negative one with criminal activities, drug or substance abuse, or divorce, this also puts the child at greater risk for substance abuse in the future.

If you are parents with adopted children or are interested in adopting, you should look into your child's biological history. If you find out that addiction is in your child's history, be alert to possible signs that this could be a problem for your child. Take preemptive steps to ensure a positive and nurturing environment. This can greatly affect the child's future.

Being an adoptive parent is hard work, but the reward is great. Do not take your role as a parent lightly. Educate yourself by reading books, attending seminars, or speak to an adoption specialist. Even speaking a mental health care professional can be a valuable tool. For more information, visit Adoptive Families.

Childhood Obesity Linked to Being Left Out

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Maybe you have reasoned in the past that being left out is part of childhood. Just grin and bear it and all will be fine. Sadly, being left out or ostracized – even for a short period of time – can carry along some very negative side effects on children.

According to researchers at Kent State University and colleagues at Pediatrics, children who feel left out may often make a choice to be less physically active. A staggering 41% of children in a recent study chose an inactive activity instead of a physically active one after being left out of an online computer game. Researchers are now linking obesity, an increase in eating, and other health problems to ostracism. This type of child will most likely spend more time alone and sedentary.

As a parent, it would be difficult to see your child enduring this hardship and the side effects that come along with it. When you become alert to the fact that this is in fact happening to your child, your reaction and response to the situation will greatly affect how the child will act and feel. The first thing to do is not to overreact, rather be a good listener. Let your child express how they feel without being judged especially because they probably feel judged by everyone else. Empathize with them and reassure them of your love for them and the good qualities that they have. Also reassure them that many kids have dealt with this same problem. Work with your child help them develop the power of perception, social skills, and how to set small goals to make friends.

If you are not able to reach your child and you feel that their situation is worsening, don't be ashamed to ask for help from a counselor or family therapist. With the assistance of a therapist, you can work together for the benefit of your child. Being a good parent means doing whatever you have to do for your child and that sometimes means getting a professional involved.

For more information, read Am I a Good Parent or contact my office to set up an appointment.

Parents - Protect Your Child's Brain

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Sports are a fun way to get exercise, play with friends, or just let off some steam. Many parents encourage their children to participate in competitive sports such as soccer or football. While you may feel that these sports are purely fun and beneficial for the kids, I would like to extend a word of caution.

The New York Times wrote an article entitled "N.F.L. Faces Retired Players in a High Stakes Legal Battle" that discusses the legal suits filed against the NFL. Over a dozen suits were filed by retired football players and the wives. About 120 players are claiming that the NFL knew the neurological effects that repeated blows to the head can cause and held back that information from the players or they claim if the NFL didn't know, they should have looked into it. Memory loss, dementia, disorientation, anger problems, and depression are all medical conditions that can be related to multiple concussions.

This blog is not to tell parents that their children should not play sports, but it is a word of caution to protect their brain – a valuable organ! Whether your child plays competitive sports or plays just for fun, be alert to the dangers that concussions can cause. Taking this lightly can have serious, lifelong consequences. If you or someone you love is experiencing mental side effects after a concussion, speak to your doctor immediately.

How to Instill Positive Traits in Your Children

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Raising children is the most rewarding experience. Along with that reward comes hard work. At times you may wish you could encapsulate your child in a bubble to protect them from all the negativity in the world, but unfortunately that is impossible. The best way to protect them is by working hard to instill in them the good qualities – such as honesty, loyalty, self-worth, and a positive outlook.

The best way for parents to teach their children these qualities is start when they are young. Childhood is the best time for learning since comprehension is at its peak. Even when you think they do not understand or are not listening, they are little sponges that are constantly absorbing. Because of this fact, your example will have a powerful effect on who your children will become.

You are your child's first role model. So, recognize that you are on a stage and someone is watching you. Granted, you will not do everything perfectly and you will make mistakes. Those situations can actually become excellent teaching opportunities. Do you put the blame on someone else for you mistake? Are you quick to make amends or admit your shortcoming? Do you beat yourself up or say next time will be better?

If you start to identify negative behavior qualities in your child, be quick to redirect it. Help them to see the good traits that they have and with you on their side to help them work through the things that are more difficult for them. Another way to instill good qualities in your children is through experience. Introduce your child to art, travel, reading, and music. Help them to find what they are passionate about.

And don't forget the most important thing...Love. Your child needs a lot of love, affection, and your quality time. Look for opportunities throughout your day to do this.

Sometimes families need help. Do not be ashamed if it is necessary to find a family therapist in your local area. For more information on parenting, visit Am I a Good Parent.

How to Pick a Therapist for Your Child

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Most parents would love to create an ideal world for their child to live in. But the reality is that more and more children are in need of mental health care. There are many reasons why a child might need therapy – divorce, abuse, loss of a loved one, learning disabilities, bullying just to name a few.

When a parent recognizes that their child needs help, the parent has two options. Sweep it under the rug like it doesn't exist or take action. The correct choice is option two. Many parents choose option one and live in denial which will only lead to more problems in the future. Because these issues will reappear – often later in life when it’s not only more difficult to address but more damage has been done. If your child needs help you may need to relinquish control and accept some professional help!

If you do decide to seek professional help for your child, then the next step is to find the right therapist for your child. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making that choice:

- Gather information. Take note of why you feel like your child needs help. What are his/her symptoms? How long have these symptoms been in existence? When gathering this information, talk to your child's teachers, school counselor, pediatrician, and any other caregiver who can give you insight into what is going on in your child's life. The more you know, the more you will be able to communicate to the professional you choose.

- Ask for referrals. The pediatrician, school counselor, or any other close friend/confidant might be able to point you in a good direction.

- Research licenses and credentials. Once you have list of therapists, research them. Make sure they are licensed to practice! I cannot stress that enough. There are people who call themselves child therapists without the proper credentials. So, do your homework before making an appointment.

- Approach and experience. Before sending your child off to therapy, find out the style and approach of the therapist. How long have they been working with children? What type of methodology do they use? What type of treatments do they offer? What do they specialize in? What is their availability? What can be expected relationship between parent and therapist?

- Insurance, price, & fees. Check with your insurance to see what options they provide for child therapy. When making an appointment with the therapist ask about prices, fees, payments plans, and cancellation policy.

- Communicate. It is very important for the parent to be involved with the therapist and the treatments. So work to build a good rapport and be available to assist them in any way necessary. Also, communicate with your child. Do they feel comfortable with the therapist? If you sense that the relationship is not working, then don't be afraid to make a change.

Taking care of your child's emotional needs are just as important as taking care of their physical needs. You are not a failure of parent if you enlist the help of a mental health care professional. It is actually a sign of true love and concern for the welfare of your child.

If you live in Vancouver, Washington or Portland, Oregon and are looking for a therapist to work with your child visit Therapy FAQ.

How to Build Self-Esteem in a Child with ADHD

Friday, May 06, 2011


ADHD often goes hand in hand with low self-esteem and depression. These negative emotions can start at a very young age. It may stem from feeling different from their peers, the inability to get the same results as others, and/or receiving extra criticism. As parents, it’s important to instill confidence in your ADHD child early on. Taking this extra effort is well worth your time and energy. If not, there can be serious consequences in the future.

Here are a few tips to help build the self-esteem in a child with ADHD:

·Positive reinforcement. In the past, I spoke about the benefits of positive reinforcement when it comes to autistic children, but the same principles apply to children with ADHD. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive. Look for the good behavior and the good qualities that they are exhibiting and be quick to commend them. When giving commendation, be specific. Explain what they did that you liked and why you liked it. The goal is to help them to make the connection that their good behavior equals positive reinforcement.

·Encourage their strengths. What is your child good at? Are they artistic? Musical? Athletic? Take note of what they excel at and encourage them to pursue those strengths. When they are feeling down about not excelling in an area, remind them that every person has strengths and weaknesses, and then remind them of their "special" skills or strengths. Get their teacher involved in this. They can exert a powerful influence for the good over your child.

·Use rewards. Rewards can be a tool that you can use to help your child build confidence. The reward does not need to be something grand, but it should be something that is meaningful to the child. Explain how they can earn the reward. Then make it "visual" by perhaps putting together a chart that tracks their progress and then posting it in their room or on the refrigerator. They will be able to see their progress. Plus it helps them to set goals and see that they can reach them.

·Do not compare them to others. A child is an individual and every individual is different. Comparing a child to another will simply guarantee that their confidence and self-esteem will drop. Avoid making careless comparisons. Instill in your child your love for them and tell them what makes them special to you.

·Therapy. Therapy can help a child feel better about themselves. A therapist can help a child to recognize that their disorder does not reflect who they really are. Over time the therapist can help children with ADHD identify and build on their strengths as well as help parents to learn how to do this more effectively.

Continue to encourage your child. Express your love for them. It may not always be easy to raise a child with ADHD, but by applying these few suggestions, your child will be more equipped to handle their future with confidence.

For more information, visit Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD. If you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington to set up an appointment for Adult or Child ADHD counseling, contact my office.

How to Help Children with Depressed Parents

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


If you are a parent and suffer from depression, it is important to recognize that your child will notice. Children are very sensitive and can pick up on the changes within the home even if they have not been verbally addressed. If they do not understand what is going on, they will often times experience stress, anxiety, or even act out with tantrums or other behavioral problems.

If you are a parent and are suffering from depression, the first thing you need to do for yourself and for your child is to seek immediate help. Do not delay! The longer you wait to get proper help, the bigger the problem will get for you and your child. Depression is treatable.

The second step is to explain the situation to your child. You do not have to go into great details or share your personal experience with them. That would only be damaging to them. Ask a mental health professional for suggestions on how to go about having this discussion with your child. In the course of your conversation with them, explain to them that the way you feel is NOT their fault. Children tend to blame themselves, thinking that maybe they did something to make their parent feel that way. Reassure them that this is not true.

Regularly tell your child how much you love them. Those 3 words are incredibly powerful and will help your child get through this difficult time.

Encourage your child to talk about how they feel. They may struggle talking to you about it because they may feel that you will take it personally. Help them to find a safe person that they can share their feelings with. It could be your spouse, a relative, a school counselor, or doctor. Depending on the situation, they may need professional help to cope. Do not be ashamed to get your child the proper care. You are not a failure if you do so. You are actually do the best thing a parent can do.

If you have depression, you may not feel that you are setting a good example as a parent, but if you take these steps, you are! You are teaching your child to not be afraid of their feelings, to speak out, and to seek help. Be assured that over time, both you and your child will be able to overcome your depression!

For more information, visit Overcoming Depression.

Shopping for Health Insurance? Make Sure You Have Adequate Mental Health Benefits

Thursday, March 24, 2011


A few years ago I heard a well known Dale Carnegie graduate give a talk on how to attract new business. He used as an example, what attracted him to the family physician who had attended to him, his wife and children for years. The good doctor had given a similar talk at a public event and impressed the man with his expertise, solid reputation, and sincerity. For something as personal and life important as the health care of his family, the man wanted such an individual as this dedicated doctor. And for years his initial decision to choose this physician proved to be a good one.

Yet in spite of the importance of choosing the right health care professional, this Carnegie graduate dropped the doctor like a hot potato when managed care rolled into town. Because his company chose a managed care plan that would not allow the doctor to join the panel, the dedicated patient who had so carefully chosen and developed a meaningful relationship with his health care provider, decided to follow the impersonal dictates of the managed care plan.

Closer to my own area of practice, psychology, is another story that is even more disconcerting. A young teenage girl had been treated for depression by a psychologist. In actuality she was not seriously depressed but rather angry at her boyfriend for being somewhat shallow. The girl’s parents called the managed care company and were referred to the psychologist. After a few short sessions with the psychologist, the girl felt she had more control of the situation and would not allow the boyfriend’s manipulation to continue. Two weeks after terminating psychotherapy, the girl and her father had a fight that erupted into yelling and screaming between the two of them. The father in frustration called his managed care plan (an 800 number in southern California) and told them his daughter was suicidal. Without any psychiatric evaluation and without contacting the daughter’s psychotherapist, the clerk at the other end of the 800 number advised the father to take the girl to a psychiatric hospital. Although the girl was not suicidal and didn’t need hospitalization, she did learn to fear her father and to behave lest she be hospitalized again. Not a healthy outcome.

The mistakes made by the Carnegie graduate and the father of the teenager are not uncommon. There is a mystique about managed care. People have come to believe that the 800 number is like a parent, able to solve all of their woes. They believe that they will get the same personal service they received for years by a doctor who knows them. They are puzzled when the service they do receive is not sufficient to resolve the problem. Often they assume that there is nothing more that can be done, since their managed care company has not authorized additional services. It’s as if the managed care company has assumed the paternalistic mystique that the family doctor once held. But now the mystique has no concern about the individual, only cutting medical costs.

So when you are shopping around for a health plan, I hope you consider just what you are buying when it comes to mental health benefits. Do you have ample psychotherapy benefits; at least 26 to 52 visits per year? Do you have the right to choose the most experienced and competent psychologist? Is there true confidentiality guaranteed? Is the treatment plan dictated by actuarial tables or by the unique needs of the situation and the employee? Is the payment to the therapist worth the time of a competent professional, or are you forced to seek out an untrained, inexperienced person who will charge rock bottom prices? Ultimately you are responsible for your own health so make sure that you’re your own health advocate.


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